Getting better at public speaking
I’m currently working to improve my public speaking, and I recently gave a talk on Digital Justice at Product Management Festival in Zurich. Afterwards, I asked a few people for some honest feedback, and jotted down how I felt I’d done. So this post is really a mini-retrospective with me reflecting on what went well and what I could do better next time.
I thought you might find it of passing interest also. With any luck, I’ll present better next time.
Digital Justice was me sharing a few things I’d learned from my time as interim head of product for the Ministry of Justice Digital team. I felt I’d missed a few points I really wanted to make, suffered a bit from technical gremlins on the day, so overall I gave my presentation a B- (must try harder).
I’m planning to write up the story I wanted to tell in a forthcoming post or two. This post is more about what went well, what didn’t go so well, and what I’m going to do better next time.
Update: The video and transcript of this talk are also now available.
So what worked well? #
- Confidence on stage
- Clear enunciation, good voice dynamics (especially with an audience for whom English was mostly not their first language)
- Thought-provoking and relevant content for the audience
- Striking and tweet-friendly slides, pics looked really good on the big screen
- Slides told a story
- Gentle chuckles at slow-burn visual gags
- Kept to time
- Wasn’t thrown by video not playing
- Managed to avoid turning around to stare at the MASSIVE CINEMA SCREEN
… and what didn’t? #
- Embedded video didn’t play, no sound – could have been anything in between PowerPoint on my laptop and the sound booth
- I felt rushed, even if I was actually on time
- I missed a few opportunities to tie back what I was saying to earlier points
- I was never near my laptop to see the speaker notes, so missed some points I meant to draw out
- Could have given more examples of what I actually did, e.g. how I interviewed product managers to make good hires
- Could have briefly recapped each numbered point before moving to the next one
- As a different approach to the talk, I could have taken a deeper dive into one or two of the five points, perhaps to illustrate the Discovery > Alpha > Beta > Live flow by following a service through the four stages and giving more examples of what we did
- I can put more breathing space into the slide design – I don’t need to use all the real estate, especially on such a big screen
- Don’t know how easy it was for people to see the website links and twitter handle at the bottom of the slides
- Should the footer links be on every slide or not? Would they detract from the pretty full-screen pictures?
- In a big venue, you pretty much can’t see me from the back – perhaps stick a quick photo in at the beginning? Or not… (so vain)
- I was worried I’d inadvertently claimed credit for my team’s work, but that wasn’t reflected in the feedback, so maybe that’s just in my head
What will I do differently next time? #
- There’s still room for improvement on the slide design:
- keep taking stuff out of the slide design, add more breathing space
- can get away with smaller font sizes on the big screen
- I could tell the story more fluidly:
- either tell an anecdote with a single slide as a prompt
- or make sure a sequence of slides is more like a storyboard, rather than different, unrelated ideas
- But would need to make fewer points:
- with 20 minutes I can’t go into great depth when the story is context + 5 main points & subpoints
- Don’t bother writing speaker notes, I’m never going to see them
- To include or not include videos? I may have been unlucky this time, but I’m yet to get a completely glitch-free run on both video and audio
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